Answers to all your dairy food questions. Tips on how to freeze dairy and how long dairy food can sit out without spoiling. Dairy foods trends becoming popular.

dairy food tour information and tips

Dairy 101

Recently I attended the NY Dairy Tour hosted by The American Dairy Association North East and I came back with a new appreciation for all things dairy. The dairy food tour was full of great information. We visited several dairy farms and learned about cow care, dairy-farming and dairy food. The American Dairy Association North East and Undeniably Dairy organized this lovely dairy food tour for several bloggers to educate us and help get the word out on the dairy food industry and dairy-farming.

Here is my dairy food guide full of interesting tidbits, along with basic definitions and new dairy food trends. Hopefully it will answer all of those dairy questions that you’ve always wondered about.

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What are dairy products and what are they for?

We’re all familiar with your basic dairy staples: milk, cheese, butter and yogurt, but there is so much more! Below are dairy food items that you may not think of, and a few ways to use them.

Condensed Milk

Condensed milk also known as sweetened condensed milk, is regular cow’s milk that has been concentrated and sweetened with sugar. After milk is pasteurized, it gets put into an evaporator, where it is then concentrated. Then sugar is added before it is vacuum-sealed into cans. Sweetened condensed milk is very thick and sweet. It works best well as a dessert ingredient. It has a shelf life of about two years.

Looking for some ways to use sweetened condensed milk? Check out these great recipes:
Crack Bars
Mermaid Ice Cream
Lemon Icebox Pie

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is known as unsweetened condensed milk. It is cow’s milk that has been thickened by evaporation, which removes about 60 percent of the water from the milk. Unlike sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk does not contain sugar, but both are great to have on hand for cooking and baking.

Looking for some ways to use evaporated milk? Check out these recipes:
Spicy Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese
Buttery Baked Chicken
Crockpot Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Clarified Butter

Clarified Butter is pure butterfat. It has been heated to remove the milk solids and water. It’s great for frying, sauteing, or used to dunk seafood. It has a higher smoke point, which means you can heat it to a higher temperature without burning it. Clarified butter also has a longer shelf life than traditional butter because it contains less water, which can cause butter to go bad.

Looking for some ways to use clarified butter? Check out these recipes:
Clarified Butter made in the Microwave
Crab Imperial Filet Mignon
Lebanese Hushwee Rice and Chicken

Ghee

Ghee is the Hindi word for fat. Ghee is basically clarified butter that has been cooked a little longer for added flavor. When you cook it longer, its milk solids begin to brown and develop a nutty flavor. After you drain out the solids, you are left with a rich, toasty taste. Ghee has a high smoke point, making it ideal for cooking at high temps and perfect for frying or sauteing.

Looking for some ways to use ghee? Check out these recipes:
Homemade Ghee
Chicken Ghee Roast
Caramelized Banana with Ghee & Cinnamon

Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that has been enjoyed for hundreds of years. It is a tart and tangy cultured milk smoothie that is high in protein, calcium and vitamin D. Kefir is traditionally made from cow’s milk, but it can be made with goat, sheep, buffalo milk, or even water as well. It has probiotics which helps with immunity.

Looking for some ways to use kefir? Check out these recipes:
Kefir Chai Latte
Overnight Oats with Kefir
Almond Peach Kefir Smoothie

Can you freeze dairy products?

The answer is yes! I have never thought of freezing dairy food. Have you? I normally toss milk out when it expires. I look for mold on my cheese and go about my merry way but it turns out you can freeze dairy food and here is how:

  • Milk can be frozen before the expiration date but I recommend putting it in small containers first. Leave a little space at the top because it will expand when it freezes. You may notice that the fat separates from the rest of the milk when you freeze it, no worries it’s completely normal. When you are ready to use the milk, let it thaw completely in the refrigerator. Milk fats can thaw separately than the water in milk, so if it’s not completely thawed, you may notice that it isn’t as smooth. Give it a quick shake or stir. Thawed milk should be used as quickly as possible. Some think that freezing milk changes its taste; if you plan on freezing milk to drink later, you may want to try a small batch first to see how you like it. If you’re planning on using it for recipes, measure it out and freeze it in silicone silicone ice-cube trays.
  • Cream that will be used to make whipped cream is not recommended for freezing, but once you make it, whipped cream can be frozen. I suggest placing dollops of whipped cream on waxed paper then placing it in the freezer to freeze. Once frozen remove the whipped cream from the wax paper and wrap individually before storing in the freezer for use as needed.
  • Cheese is a bit trickier. Some softer cheeses like mozzarella and young cheddar can be frozen especially when shredded. Other cheeses, like aged cheddar will become crumbly. You can freeze shredded cheese before the expiration date, but it’s best to allow it to thaw for 1 day or two in the fridge. This allows the moisture  to go back into the cheese. Though freezing suspends the spoilage process, it is recommended that thawed cheese be used as quickly as possible.
  • Butter can be frozen. Unsalted butter can last up to five months. Salted butter can last up to nine with proper storage. To keep it tasting as fresh as possible, keep it in its original wrapper. You can also wrap it in foil or plastic then put it in an air-tight container. This will make sure the butter doesn’t absorb other flavors in your freezer. You can freeze it in blocks, sticks or pats of butter. Keep the butter frozen until you’re ready to use it, then let it thaw in the refrigerator. Depending on how you plan to use it, consider grating the butter while it’s still frozen, it softens quickly and works well for baked goods. It’s recommended that thawed butter be used as quickly as possible.
  • Yogurt can technically be frozen. The dairy food experts say they don’t recommend it because freezing yogurt changes the texture and can mean the loss of its active cultures. Freezing yogurt will not significantly impact its nutritional value. Some kids’ yogurts are designed to be frozen, so those are okay.

blue cheese Dairy food

How long can dairy food sit out?

I wonder about this all the time. The holidays are coming up, which means parties and food sitting out for hours. Do you toss the expensive cheese on your cheese board or charcuterie platter? Can I leave my butter at room temperature?

  • Milk is perishable so it should not sit out of the refrigerator or cooler for longer than two hours. Cut that time down to an hour in the summer if the temperature reaches 90°F. After that time frame, bacteria will start to grow. Same goes for yogurt. 
  • Cheese follows the two-hour guideline for leaving perishable food out, unless you’re keeping it hot or cold. That also applies to certain unrefrigerated cheese. How long a particular cheese remains safe to eat depends on its moisture content and whether it is fresh or aged, among other factors. It is best to let your cheese come to room temperature before serving to bring out the best flavors which generally takes about 30 minutes, so factor that into your overall time. For example, if the cheese is out for two hours, fresh, soft cheeses (such as Queso Fresco, Brie, Camembert) should be discarded, but hard cheeses (such as Cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, Parmesan) can be wrapped well and refrigerated to use again. If you see that mold has formed on your natural, hard, block cheese, don’t worry. It’s not harmful and can be easily removed by cutting off at least an inch around the mold spot. If the cheese has dried out, it can be wrapped in foil and put in the freezer to be used later in a cheesy recipe.
  • Butter is okay to leave out sometimes, but there are conditions to follow to play it safe. Salted butter is less prone to going bad on the counter than unsalted butter. If you are a serious supporter of leaving butter out, go with the salted kind. Regardless of salt quantity, play it safe by limiting time on the counter to no more than a couple of days. If you prefer unsalted butter, refrigerate it. Same goes for whipped butter. If it creeps above 70°F in your kitchen, all butter should go into the fridge to avoid going bad. The bottom line is, if you love soft butter, buy the salted kind and take the liberty of leaving it out for a day or two. But, if you’re extra conscious about food safety, when in doubt, don’t leave it out.

dairy farm that makes Dairy food

What is behind milk expiration date?

In some cases, that date may be a “sell by” date meant for the grocery store. In other cases, it may be a “best buy” date for you. States have different laws and regulations that govern what the terminology and dates mean. There is no one universal answer nationwide.Every carton of milk sold in the United States is clearly labeled with a “sell by,” “pull,” “use by” or “best if used by” date. Each of these dates mean something different. The “sell by” and “pull” dates refer to how long a grocery store can keep the product in the dairy case. The product must be sold by the date labeled on the package. This date takes into account time for the food to be used at home, so you should buy the product before the “sell by” or “pull” date, but you don’t have to use it by then. If properly refrigerated, milk will stay fresh for two to three days after this date; maybe longer.The “use by” date is similar to the “best if used by” date; both refer to the last date that the product is likely to be at peak flavor and quality. If kept cold and stored properly, you may have fresh, wholesome milk and dairy products for more than a week past the “use by” or “best if used by” date. Your nose knows best! Milk that has gone bad has a sour scent. If your milk smells funny, don’t drink it.

Are eggs dairy?

A lot of people think eggs are dairy. For those of you who thought eggs were dairy, let me break it down for you. Dairy products are made from milk. Milk only comes from mammals like cows, goats, and sheep. Birds are not mammals, so they do not produce milk. They lay eggs. It may be a bit confusing since grocery stores keep their eggs in the “dairy food” section.

cheese cave at dairy food tour

Are cheese rinds safe to eat?

Yes, for the most part. Rinds come in all kinds and the edible ones tend to fall into three camps. The following 3 are edible.
a. Rinds formed by a mold species. The rinds on these cheeses, think Brie and blue cheese, are an essential part of the cheese’s flavor.
b. 
Flavor-based rinds. These rinds, which can include wheels of cheese rubbed with cocoa, Merlot or cinnamon, give an extra kick to a particular cheese.
c. Rinds formed naturally in the cheesemaking process. One example is Parmesan; they’re safe to eat but can be tough and chewy. Instead of eating them, I recommend throwing them in soups to add thickness.Cheese rinds that are not edible can be made from cloth, bark or wax and basically serve as containers for the cheese.

Does warm milk help you fall asleep?

Drinking milk at bedtime has not been shown to influence sleep. There is no data on whether milk helps you sleep.

Why does swiss cheese have holes?

First, you need to get the lingo right. Cheesemakers don’t call those telltale openings “holes;” they call them “eyes. Swiss cheese has holes because of carbon dioxide bubbles that form in the cheese. Swiss cheese does not always have eyes. This is considered a defect, when it happens, the cheese is called “blind” Swiss. Blind Swiss still tastes like Swiss.

cheese curds at dairy food tour

Why do cheese curds squeak?

To put it simply, the protein network found in cheese curds are woven tightly, allowing it to rebound from our teeth as we bite, creating a squeak. If you have bitten into a cheese curd and not heard it squeak, fear not, your hearing isn’t failing you. A cheese curd’s ability to make noise lasts for a short time after its made.

Does drinking milk help when your mouth is on fire from spicy food?

Yes, because milk helps your mouth handle capsaicin which is an oily chemical compound in chili peppers. Capsaicin binds to a receptor in the tongue and creates a burning sensation. Milk has just the thing to beat the heat, fat. Since capsaicin is fat-soluble, rinsing with milk fat helps ease the burn. Casein protein found in milk can also bind to the capsaicin and wash it away. Technique counts too, holding milk in the mouth for a long time and then swallowing maximizes milk’s soothing effect.

Dairy Food Trends

  • Farm to table is a phrase many people use to describe how homes, restaurants, schools and other organizations get their food. It’s about connecting people to where their food comes from. Used to refer to locally grown or produced food.
  • Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. It can come from any animal. Raw milk can carry dangerous germs that can make you very sick or kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Ask yourself if it’s worth the risk?
  • Cheese tea is the latest Instagram-worthy food trend. Name for a cold tea topped with a foamy layer of milk and cream cheese then sprinkled with salt.
  • Moon milk is popping up on Instagram feeds and Pinterest pages everywhere also. It is a lot fancier than your average latte. A warmed up milk infused with herbs and spices. Moon milk is touted as a miracle worker for helping you snooze soundly. Garnish with edible flowers, spices, herbs, or a drizzle of honey.

DAIRY 101
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dairy food questions

I think we can all agree dairy is amazing :). Hopefully this answers your burning dairy questions, and if you have any more let us know in the comments and I’ll do our best to answer them!

Drink milk, eat cheese and be happy!